Successful Progress

Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.
~ Henry Ford


Thomas Edison and Henry Ford

I read something the other day that made me think of you. Here it is … when communication shuts down, so does innovation. It made me realize how dependent we are on you … how truly dependent all developers must be on their users.  Where else could we go to learn? Where else might we listen in order to understand? Where else? Our communication has been the key to our success, don’t you think? So, take some time, do us all some good, and communicate. Do you know why? Look what’s in store today!

Having gone digging through the cookie jar, we introduced the NEXT UNGRADED ESSAY feature almost two months ago. You know that we have watched and listened since then. Some of you just preferred “the old way” of doing things better. Some others  really liked this new feature, but you only wanted it in certain classes. What could we do?

Did you get that? Just remember that you can always manage your preferences at the bottom of your OTHER COURSES screen. Moving right along …

We know that you sometimes get email correspondence from parents. Wouldn’t it be helpful if you could find the student associated with a parent (supervisor) email? Go to STUDENTS > FIND STUDENTS:


There is now a SUPERVISOR E-MAIL field via which you can search to find the correct student. Reminder: This search will only work for supervisor email addresses that are registered in VSA.

Speaking of students <drum roll!> …


There are times when you just want your workload filtered by grade level. We’ve heard your stories. It’s near the end of the term. The seniors are anxious to get their transcripts completed. You happen to be the one made to feel bad about not having corrected the dozen assignments Johnny decided to complete on final deadline day. Sound familiar? With the new Grade Level Sort you can add grade level to your filtering power. Let us know what you think here.

gradelevelJust a heads up  …

No longer will teachers be able to change a student’s grade level.
All changes must go through VSA.  Submitting any changes through the student profile will no longer impact the student’s number of active weeks or honors status. Once again … all necessary alterations must be reconciled via VSA.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Willing is not enough; we must do.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Leaving A Trail

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

wilder1Do you remember Gene Wilder shouting with crazy jubilation in Young Frankenstein? Sometimes … a developer comes out of the laboratory with that same riveted look, that same wide-eyed wonder, that same sense of crazed satisfaction.

I sit and watch and often wind up exclaiming, “It’s alive!” The “experiment” this week falls into that “alive” category.
Let us know if you agree. Now for some use cases …

Case #1 – I want to conduct a live lesson for all students who did poorly on Assignment 6.03.
Case #2 – I’d like to create a group for students who scored an A-grade on exam 2.01.
Case #3 – I want to email all students who started some work but never finished.

These are not uncommon tasks, but they are by no means simple to execute … until now! Welcome to ATA, Assessment Tracking Actions. Before we get to the end goal, there are two paths to get there, depending on your focus. Here we go …

Student Path


Near the bottom … notice the Find learners based on performance section.
Select the Course and click GO.


You will find yourself on the Requirements Page (below).
Moving along the other path to the Requirements Page …

Assessment Path
Click on the ASSESSMENT dropdown and pick an assessment type.
Find any assessment in the list and click the ACTIONS button.


Select the MODIFY choice.
NOTE: For assignments only, select advanced assignment properties


Now choose the Advanced-tracking link for either exams or assignments.


Welcome again to the Requirements Page!
Whether you arrive via STUDENTS or ASSESSMENTS, you will find yourself here:


Here you enter your requirements to find your students. If scores are required, just enter your choice into the text box and click SEARCH. Feel free to include non-submitted assessments into your results. While the steps will seem somewhat cumbersome or confusing at first, you will find it well worth the effort to get into the groove.

The real power, the benefit for you, should become apparent on the Results Page. Results? Power? Take a look:


You can filter these results even further. You can select any/all students. Then you pick the action you’d like to take: email, group, or force. Can you imagine using this feature? Tell us how. We listen.

That should wrap it up, but there is just one more thing. Give this one a read:

Love the unread email feature as well. Small thing… if it is 0 can it be a different color. It just keeps catching my eye.

So, we went one better.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Small Detail

If you don’t understand the details of your business you are going to fail.
~ Jeff Bezos

backstageIt’s been a busy week both behind the Educator stage and face-to-face with many teachers and administrators. It has been a very “public” week … from Leon County to Flagler County to the Florida District Virtual Instruction Program Network (FLDVIPN) Symposium in Lake Mary to the NSTA Conference in Boston. Lots of great energy and even greater dialogue are still going on!

What about some goodies? What about some enhancements? What about a little something for our favorite fans? We actually had a great idea come our way via your help desk. Effective today, students will only see email recipients from the current course. The default will automatically reference only the current course. They will still be able to change the email filters and select other courses, but the default will limit the recipient list. This change should trim the scope of spam some of you have reported. Please keep us posted, and remember to thank your help desk for this great idea.

We’ve also added one detail that has been requested. Take a look:


Do you see that number inside the small red box? That’s the number of UNREAD emails the student has in his/her inbox! Going forward … whenever you look a student’s grade report, you’ll be able to quickly identify how many emails a student has yet to open!

One more small detail … as someone wrote:

When I’m grading, I filter by the dates. I click the dates on the calendars that pop up. The calendars are great! But — I am never grading future assignments. (Impossible, no?)
So, why do I see the current month and the UPCOMING month?
What would really help is to see the current month and the PREVIOUS month.

Made sense to us! So be it!

The development taking place behind the curtain this past week will make your onstage Educator life even better in the coming weeks. That’s a promise.

Success is the sum of details.
~ Harvey S. Firestone

Road Show – Part One

Great things are done when men and mountains meet.
~ William Blake

We are going on a road show next week, and you’re invited to come along!
We’ll be in Lake Mary from Wednesday to Friday. Ucompass is attending and presenting at the Florida District Virtual Instruction Program Network (FLDVIPN) Symposium. The event is happening at the Marriott Lake Mary.

The FLDVIPN was developed to help identify successful leaders, outstanding programs, innovative and inspiring teaching, and to provide a united voice to help shape the future of virtual education at the district levels. Their network symposium will gather over 300 professionals to attend Florida’s K-12 online and blended learning conference.
FLDVIPN600Check out their website and look at the schedule.  We will be presenting coming attractions in Educator on Friday at 9am. I will be presenting our Educator story with Mike Houghton, our User Experience guru. We will both be stationed in the Ucompass booth to answer your questions, explore some requests, and listen to your stories.

As an added bonus, our CEO and founder, Edward Mansouri, will be introducing our latest project called WeatherSTEM, the day before … Thursday at 2:15pm. This will be of special interest to anyone in the STEM disciplines, but it will also fascinate anyone who wants to explore the integration of devices and data into any course of study.

We’d love to see you there. We have lots to share and look forward to it.

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
~ Confucius

Tweaking Assignments

Great things are won by great dangers.
~ Herodotus

We had a lot of activity this past week, didn’t we? The Facebook page saw more comments than any other week in recent memory. Thank you all for your participation. So what was it that rallied the troops?

The development team threw out a plan, and we asked you to help us make it right. It seems we finally made it right for now, and we’re all a bit more relaxed.
There won’t be as much varied opinion this week. We have decided to tackle two relatively simple efficiency issues surrounding assignments: downloading and manual grading. Your ability to download a  TXT file was improved a couple of months ago.
Now you can readily download both TXT and HTML files.
All files in one assignment (including those pesky TXT and HTML files) will be compressed for download as a ZIP file:

You’ll only need to unzip or decompress the ZIP file to view the contents:

On the assignment grading front, there was this post left in an email …

It would be nice when we were manually grading assignments if there could be an equivalent percentage that showed up.
Sometimes I don’t know if the manual grade is passing or failing or anywhere. Thank you.

By the numbers here …

ONE: You approach the manual-grading box.
TWO: You enter a manual grade and a percentage figure magically appears!
grade2bTHREE: You’re just not allowed to enter more points that it’s worth.

grade3bStay in touch!

If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.
~ Herodotus

Listen and Learn!

If you want to make someone feel emotion, you have to make them let go. Listening to something is an act of surrender.
~ Brian Eno

Imagine sitting in the developers’ workshop with piles of ideas surrounding you like stacks of books in a library. You make decisions. You always go back “into the field” and observe the improvements. It takes audience reactions to know if the developers have won or lost. The key is careful listening, and listen we did … for example:

I initially thought that was the percentage complete (and got very excited) ,and then it dawned on me a few minutes later that it was the grade.

The dial makes sense for % complete (out of 100%, working to complete the circle) but does not make sense as a graphic for the grade.

Then a student got excited thinking they were 93% complete! but in reality they only had three assignments complete. I think in their world that dial appearing to fill around is more of a “progress indicator” so their mind is not thinking grade.

So what seems to be most important in the independent world of online education? It’s not the current grade; that only gains importance on segment exams and the final grade. What warrants the most attention and what seems to be leading success barometer is how far down the road a learner has traveled. That’s what we’ve been told. That’s what we’ve heard.

Call in the Ucompass developers!
(Background music:
They have taken immediate action once again!
Beginning tomorrow (Tuesday) … this is the view for students, parents, and you:
new gauge

We don’t even think you need further explanation. Let us know as always.

I think audiences are quite comfortable watching something coming into being.
~ Brian Eno

Watching You

Wherever I go, I’m watching. Even on vacation, when I’m in an airport or a railroad station …
I look around, snap pictures, and find out how people do things.

~ Richard Scarry


Your Ucompass developers spend a great deal of time watching how you do things. Did you know that? You may not see them sitting next to you, but they are watching. Sometimes you just tell them; other times someone else might spill the beans; and there are times when they just fill in the blanks.

force1The support team watches the tickets; they listen to the issues; they think of ways to keep your sailing smooth. Then they implement. So, what did they see this week?

Your appreciation of the Forcing Fields put in place recently has become another call to action for the developer team.
After watching the steps taken on your end and knowing how much you enjoy using this feature, the team found ways to save you some more time.

When you have submitted a file for upload to the Common Folders, you will now be able to IMMEDIATELY force that file to yourself or to all students!

You will see that choice (as on the left) immediately after the submitted message.

Please note that this applies only to all students in one particular shell. This is NOT a global forcing to all shells. Would that be a good idea, too? What about My Folders?


It looks a bit different for now, but this is the same functionality as above. No longer will you need that Object ID. Upload your slide, and instantly force it to all students, now or on the calendar schedule.

What else did the team learn? There have been a lot of rumblings about students spamming classmates. It seems that parents have also taken to complaining about this as well. Quite frankly, it’s good news that the Educator email system is working so well. This allows students to reach out and collaborate as needed. Like so many good things, it can become a problem in less considerate hands. Having had many discussions with instructional leadership, we decided to try this:


Whenever a student sends an email to more than 10 students in the class, the teacher will be automatically be copied on that email. It will look something like the address fields above. This will afford the teacher immediate firsthand knowledge and the documentation necessary to take appropriate action. The first few reports generated tonight were from students looking for collaborative partners. Prohibition cannot be the answer. Hopefully, timely notice will help douse this flare-up of activity. Taking this even a step farther, logs or abuse are being kept and weekly administrative reports will be sent to leadership in order to best gauge the matter.

Moving along to more fun stuff here … you’ve all heard about the ongoing development of Educator 3. That toolbar and dashboard are two bits and pieces from that development team. This week we have another piece of E3 to share with you!

It’s all about the segments, isn’t it? We noticed how some of you were getting lost or tired in the eyes from having to read so many lines on your screens. We agreed, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” The developers have made it easier for you, your students, and their supervisors or parents to view a student’s progress. All views will now incorporate the E3 gauges:


Each segment is clearly represented. The PERCENTAGE that is graphically displayed represents the grading for all work completed to that date. It is not the course grade until 100% of assessments (arrows) are completed OR the student withdraws. The rest is very self-explanatory. Please note that previous TOTAL PERCENTAGE field has been eliminated. Do you like those dial gauges?

And finally, there’s one more thing we noticed this week. We were actually tipped off to this one by one of you who wrote:

When grading assignments I often scroll down first to take a quick look at the TII report. It is frustrating to grade an assignment only to find out there is an academic integrity issue therefore scrolling down each time has become a common practice. Point being, please consider moving the TII report up so that we do not need to scroll down before grading each assignment. Perhaps the TII report could be placed in between the “Student Name” and above the “Attached Files”.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you this:


What do you think now? Aren’t you happy? What does that do for you? You’re all familiar with this:


From now on it will appear at the top … and save you the trouble of grading something that had been graded by 20 other teachers before it was copied and pasted for you.

Stay in touch. Make us think. Make the developers see. It will make your teaching life better or easier or just more fun!

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
~ e. e. cummings

Force Field

The Force is strong with this one!
~ Darth Vader, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

darth600We are going to pay some attention to forcing both this week and next.
We are not going to force you to do anything.
We are going to tell you …
if you are now reading this page, then you really owe it to yourself to come back again next week.

force (verb)
: to make (someone) do something that he or she does not want to do
: to make it necessary for (someone) to do something
: to make (something) necessary

About four months ago we implemented our first change to the forcing slide feature in Educator. There were more cheers about that than we could have ever imagined:

So thankful to be able to set the timer so I don’t have to reset all those grace period forcing slides! The next step would be to have another field where we could set the timer for when to change the forcing slide so we could do them in advance!

Of course, there were also those emails with suggestions to go an extra step or two:

I’d like to be able to schedule forcing slides. I really appreciate the changes made earlier this year. Can you set it up so I can start forcing on next Monday before I go away on Friday?

Here we are again with Forcing Slide Wars: Episode II.
Do you notice what has been added here?

forcing1What do you think?

What about individual students?


There you have it! You can now set the forcing slide start dates for your classes and/or individual students!
Don‘t forget to join us here next week. You just might be pleasantly surprised. :-)


The Force is strong with you!
~ Darth Sidious, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Big Announcement

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
~ Mark Twain

Perhaps you only go into one course shell. If that’s your good fortune, then read no further. There are others out there who have responsibilities in more than one room, right? You know who you are. You’re one of those who had to visit 14 shells just to wish your students a Happy Thanksgiving! There you were with 14 turkeys and 14 pieces of text to copy and paste into 14 places armed with 14 Object ID numbers. Was that you? Help is here!


You will now be able to EDIT your Announcement as well as MANAGE your Global Announcements. The new Global Announcement feature offers a one-stop shop for the announcements in all your class shells. That’s right! All course announcements can now be controlled from one location. When you first try to manage your global announcements, you’ll be informed that you have none. Why not add one?

Teachers rule!
Global Announcements can only be created via the TEACHER account.  No TA power.
One graphic for all!
All graphic files are linked from the common folder area. Upload once and serve all.
Object ID’s are NOT valid here.

Once you have created some, you can edit or delete them, or you can always add a new one:


Here are the steps for adding a new one:


1. Give your announcement a name.
2. Enter text into the expandable text box. The system will always assume the entry to be HTML.
3. Pick a start date for your entry.
4. Pick an end date for the same.


5. If you want this to be IMMEDIATELY active, check the box.
6. Select to courses in which you want this to appear.
7. Pick to display above or below your current announcement.
8. SAVE or lose your custom announcement.

When done, you will be returned to the Global Announcements page. Your work will be listed in the table:

manage3Each of the rows can be dragged up or down to change the order. The column headings are self-explanatory, and you can quickly view your announcement data. There are many use cases for utilization of this new feature. Think of the possibilities! Better still… why not tell each other and us how you plan to use this?

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
~ Winston Churchill

Feedback Snippets: Part Two

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
~ Stephen R. Covey

About one month ago we released Feedback Snippets. Since then you’ve been posting comments on our Facebook page, comments to this blog, and e-mailing us suggestions for improvement.  We’ve been listening this whole time, compiling notes, trying to understand the meat of the requests … so that we could act.

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